Tony blames it all on “The Goldfinch.”
For me, Donna Tartt’s divisive novel deserves only half the fault.
But we’re both in the same place, stalled in trying to figure out what to read next.
My friend and I are good, steady readers with broad interests, usually going from one book to the next. But lately we can’t find our groove. We both realized this when we tried to read “The Goldfinch” at the same time, after some positive early buzz but before the Pulitzer. We are fans of literary fiction, and I had enjoyed Tartt’s debut, “The Secret History.”
But each of us sheepishly admitted we weren’t enjoying this one, and we eventually gave up before page 200, or about a quarter of the way through. It was just such a slog, almost unreadable – and then we heard from more friends who had the same response.
The experience left Tony and me both oddly unable to get back on track with something new. Tony says he’s baffled by reviews now, and I admit my attention span seems shot – challenged, at least – by my focus on digital communications and social media.
(I have been reading books about those topics, though, as they relate to content, storytelling, branded journalism and such – just for different reasons and with different rewards.)
So I asked Facebook friends, How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews? Cover art? Oprah?
The result has been a lively discussion, an edited version of which I want to share. Please join in, through the link at the top of this post. Let me know what works for you and what you’ve been reading lately, especially if it’s good. Or even “The Goldfinch.”
Stephen Bell Miller: I troll bookstores, take suggestions from reviews or interviews I hear on NPR; I look to biographies and mystery series; and the classics are always on my list.
Priscille Dando: Recommendation from someone I trust is the biggest influencer–friend, librarian, independent bookseller, reviewers at Booklist, publishing reps that know my taste. I do pay attention to Buzz books and awards but a book jumps the line if someone I know loves it.
Scott Pierce: My latest was The Circle by Eggers. I got it at Church Street Coffee & Books (in Birmingham, Ala.) for two reasons: I’d read Eggers before and loved him, and I trust Carrie to stock great reads.
Peter Rubin: I read a lot. They are cotton candy for the brain type books. If there is a CIA black ops, political intrigue, super spy thriller then I read it. If I like the author — then I binge read all his/her books. I know people who like the same types of books and ask them if I have run out of new ones to read. So, in essence, word of mouth from a trusted source.
Kelly Pierce: I mostly pick books up and flip to a random page. If I like that passage, I buy the book. Not very scientific. Sometimes I get heads up from friends or hear or see an author interviewed that sounds interesting.
Connie Ogle: Sometimes it’s something so simple as the cover or the description. … I read Fourth of July Creek recently and ended up reviewing it bc a colleague had suggested it. I do read reviews, too, of course, though I never trust Amazon reviews (what if it’s the author’s sister???) I get ideas from Twitter #fridayreads, too, and just looking at hashtags for books to see what people are talking about.
Michael Van Ausdeln: For me, it’s reviews. NYT Book Review plus Amazon Best of the Month.
Question: What was the problem with Goldfinch? I liked it thru the lens of grief. It was the reaction of seeing your mother die. It worked for me.
Connie again: It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, The Goldfinch, but I only got about 200 or so pages through and was annoyed throughout. I swear, a book is set in NYC, and all the NYC literati lose their minds. Good grief. When I heard how it ended I was even more glad I bailed out.
Nunzio Michael Lupo: Nyt book review. Sometimes being interested in a subject and hunting around for it. Like right now I’d like to find a good one on the politics of the Second Vatican Council and one on the 1968 Democratic convention
Phil Kloer: Goldfinch seems divisive. I thought it was amazing, Dickensian. Franzen is also divisive but I have loved his last two, I go by reviews (NYT, NPR, even sometimes Amazon), FB word of mouth, but in most cases the author’s track record.
Cara Neth: My neighbors put up a little library across the street so I tend to wander over and grab whatever looks good when I want something new. I just read “Great Expectations” for the first time because it was there. Otherwise, I focus on working my way through the stacks of books that I’ve bought over the years and never got around to reading…I want to get through those before I read the latest hot novel. I thought “Secret History” was overrated, so I haven’t had any interest in “The Goldfinch”…but if it shows up in the little library, I’ll probably pick it up.
RELATED: The Little Free Library Movement
RELATED: On storytelling and content
RELATED: 12 Annoying Words and Phrases